November 2008 was not really my month. It started with getting a cold early in the month and a few days after that my failure to finish the 100 km Trailwalker race. Then I got really sick for about two weeks, with a bad cold that turned into a double ear infection because I kept on working and even went running on Tianmashan before I was healthy again. I am still taking medicine for that actually, especially because flying is not the best thing to do while having an ear infection. Last Friday’s scare with my wife’s pregnancy was also not something that I would like to go through again. And last night when I arrived in Amsterdam it seemed the bad luck spree had not stopped yet.
The flight itself was delayed but uneventful. I had an interesting neighbor who had set up and run factories for Xerox in India and China for over 25 years, and now helped setting up factories for other Dutch firms. Because he just turned 65 he decided to focus on other things from now on and he was on his way back to Holland after his final project in China. He knew Shanghai from the old days (the 1980’s) and had some interesting stories to tell. When I told him who I was he recognized me from a Dutch TV talk show where I participated, I am always amazed how many people have seen that show.
Upon arrival in Amsterdam I went through the passport check with my Chinese colleagues, and the passport guys were quite unfriendly. I already observed how they treated the Chinese in front of us, talking to them like they are potential criminals, wanting to see their documents and double-checking them. I really wonder if that is necessary, people have already been scrutinized when they applied for their visa’s, right? That visa process is another story by the way (my neighbor on the plane also had some bad visa experiences with his Chinese colleagues at the Dutch consulate), but it seems the Dutch consulate in Shanghai is actively working to improve it. Anyway, we got the same treatment from the passport guy, asking my colleague all kinds of questions. When I stepped in the public servant looked at me as if I was a piece of dirt. I looked back at him in the same way, the only thing you can do in such a situation, and then he let us through. Welcome to Holland 🙁
At the luggage belt the suitcases of my 3 Chinese colleagues arrived quickly, but not mine. I did not worry about it at first, but when the belt stopped I realized my luggage probably got lost somewhere. Great… So I went to lost luggage where they told me my suitcase should be in Amsterdam. They called some people at the luggage department and told me to wait for another 15 minutes. If the suitcase would not be there I would have to file a missing luggage report. We were all tired, but there was nothing we could do but wait. And that paid off: after exactly 15 minutes the luggage belt started moving again and my suitcase came out!
We went out into the arrivals hall where a taxi should be waiting to take us to Hilversum. We looked everywhere, but nobody with a Spil Games sign in sight. Sigh… I called someone at Spil Games and it turned out there had been a mix-up and there was no taxi for us. We then decided to take a train to Hilversum, which should be quite fast (too bad we ended up on the slow train, which took us another 45 minutes). Around 8:30 we arrived at the train station, where we took two taxis, because we were staying in two hotels (the hotel we all planned to stay in only had 2 rooms left). Ying Hao and me went to the other hotel, but when we checked in they could not find our reservations. Another call to Spil Games learned me that they reserved another hotel for us. So we had to call another taxi (waiting time 15 minutes) and finally managed to get to our hotel. By now it was 9 PM, we were jetlagged and we did not even have dinner yet. I jogged over to the hotel where Demi and Guo Haibin were staying to pick them up for a quick meal.
But upon arriving there I learned that Guo Haibin had left his laptop in the taxi. The taxi receipt did not have a number or name on it, so we decided to go back to the train station to see if we could find the taxi. To make a long story short, after spending 45 minutes in the rain at the cold train station we had seen about 20 taxi’s but not the one we were looking for. We then went over to the police station to inform them about the missing laptop, but they told us to come back during working hours. Jeez, what a good service in Holland.
We then went to a cafe to get a small meal, but were told the kitchen had closed already. Luckily there is a McDonalds in Hilversum, but when we arrived there it had also closed (it was past 10 PM already). We finally ended up in a Turkish snack bar where we ordered some pizza and cheese snack for me. The pizza arrived quickly, but my cheese snack did not. After 10 minutes I checked with them what was happening, and it turned out they had forgotten about it. By now it was completely burned so they had to make me a new one. It seems that everything that could go wrong did go wrong tonight, I hope the rest of the trip here will be better.